The race towards the Stanley Cup playoffs is in full effect. There was some movement within the standings after Thursday night’s 10-game schedule. Two huge streaks came to an end in Las Vegas. A playoff hero is heating up in St. Louis just in time for a title defense. Things could be turning around in Toronto and there was some rookie history made in New Jersey.
Vasilevskiy is Human After All
The city of Las Vegas traditionally frowns upon long winnings streak and the Golden Knights did their part to end two of the team on Thursday night. With their 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, they snapped both the team’s 11-game winning streak and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy’s 21-game personal point streak.
Defenseman Alec Martinez had a goal and an assist in his first game with the Golden Knights since being acquired from the Los Angeles Kings. The loss was Tampa Bay’s first since they lost to the Dallas Stars in overtime on Jan. 27.
Santa Claus had not even begun to pack his sleigh the last time Vasilevskiy lost in regulation. He made 28 saves in his first regulation loss since he was beaten by the Washington Capitals on Dec. 27.
Back-to-Back Blanks by Binnington
Jordan Binnington had a very notable evening with a 1-0 shutout over the Arizona Coyotes. He made 14 saves for his second straight shutout after his 17-save performance against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night. The 14 shots were the fewest any goaltender has faced in a shutout this season.
“We’ll take it,” Binnington said after the game. “Team’s playing great and we’ll build off that. We were dominating pretty consistently that game. Another full 60 minutes and being relentless and being hungry to get that first goal and working for that next one. It was a good mindset and it was a big two points for us.”
The victory was the 50th of Binnington’s young NHL career, coming in just his 77th game. He became just the 10th goaltender in NHL history to win 50 games in 77 games or fewer.
This is the second time Binnington earned shutouts in back-to-back starts in his career. He will take a shutout streak of 122:11 into his next start, which could come as early as tonight versus the Stars, since he such a light workload last night, or Sunday against the Minnesota Wild.
Andersen Returns the Favor
The last time the Toronto Maple Leafs were on the ice, they were beaten down by the Pittsburgh Penguins, 5-2, on Tuesday. Frederik Andersen surrendered all five goals and the team was left questioning themselves after the loss.
What a difference 48 hours make as the Maple Leafs and Andersen beat the Penguins 4-0 on Thursday night. The Maple Leafs’ top goaltender made 24 saves in front of the home crowd for his second shutout of the season and 18th of his career.
This was the exact performance Andersen needed. In his previous three starts, he gave up 3 goals on 79 shots for a .835 save percentage (SV%).
“It was great. We responded the way we wanted to,” Andersen said after his big win. “Guys played really good. We just stuck with our game for the most part. It was a complete effort and a great response from everyone. That’s what we want to be like.”
More importantly, the Maple Leafs’ win, combined with the Florida Panthers’ late-night loss at the Kings, put them all alone in third place of the Atlantic Division. They have a two-point advantage over the Panthers for the final Stanley Cup playoff spot in the division.
Blackwood Remains Bright Spot for Devils
The New Jersey Devils came into the season with high expectations. They drafted Jack Hughes with the first overall pick and created a buzz by added players like P.K. Subban and Nikita Gusev during the offseason.
No team has been more of a disappointment than the Devils as they have gone from playoff contender to a team that has seen a ton of in-season change. They fired head coach John Hynes and traded former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall in December. They have also dealt captain Andy Greene and forward Blake Coleman in recent days.
Goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood has been of very few bright spots during a very rough season for the Devils. He made 36 saves in a 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday to improve to 6-0-1 in his past seven starts. More impressively, he has allowed just five goals in those seven starts.
“It’s just hard work,” Blackwood said about his hot streak. “I’m fortunate to practice with [goalie coach Roland Melanson] and be able to work on my game. He’s technically great, so he’s helped me with my game, and I think I’ve been fortunate that we’ve been getting the results. Some days the results are good and some days they are bad, but the process has remained the same.”
Greg Boysen has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks since 2010 and has been a site manager for both FanSided and SB Nation. He has been published in The Hockey News and was fully credentialed for the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Among his various roles with The Hockey Writers are covering the Blackhawks, the AHL, writing the daily “Today in Hockey History” column, serving as a copy editor, and appearing and hosting multiple YouTube shows, including Blackhawks Banter. He is credentialed with the Chicago Wolves, Rockford IceHogs, and Milwaukee Admirals, while also being a regional scout for the NAHL. And, just because his plate isn’t full enough, Greg hosts trivia in the Chicago area two nights a week. For interview requests or to provide topic suggestions, follow Greg on Twitter and reach out.